Poverty can happen very quickly to anyone. A guaranteed livable income would help address the persistent inequities within our country.
“When the pandemic first happened, we often heard the phrase ‘we are all in the same boat.’ In fact, we are not all in the same boat. Inequities that existed long before COVID have been exacerbated since the onset of the pandemic. Now is the time to implement a structure of justice making and justice keeping that no longer excuses, rationalizes, and tolerates poverty.”
—Moderator Carmen Lansdowne
Poverty can happen very quickly to anyone. Aware that some pandemic-related relief programs (such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, CERB) were scheduled to wind up in July 2020, Moderator Richard Bott has written to elected officials encouraging them to seize the moment to roll out a universal basic income program in collaboration with the provinces, territories, and Indigenous leadership.
“It is my belief,” he writes, “that our collective experience as Canadians during COVID-19 presents a vital opportunity.... [T]ogether we can take important steps to protect the health and safety of all Canadians going forward.” The full letter is available under Downloads, below.
A growing movement of senators, Anglican and Evangelical Lutheran bishops, and many more across Canada are calling for a universal basic income. In September 2020, hundreds participated in the Light the Flame for a GLI effort through lighting a candle and sending petitions for a guaranteed livable income program while five vigils were held across the country (Parliament Hill, Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, and Vancouver). On April 8, 2021, more than 50 vigils were held outside MP constituency offices and online from Victoria to St. John's, and hundreds posted social media posts of lighting candles. You can see videos and images online. In October 2021, 31 communities of faith marked the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty with Guaranteed Livable Income Sunday worship and action services. In 2022, the United Church GLI network members have been instrumental in working with other coalitions to successfully campaign for endorsements and support for the GLI by municipalities. This effort, along with federal advocacy, continues in 2023.
The use of “guaranteed” signals a focus on ensuring a level of income for all. Emphasis is on its being available to anyone below a certain income level (universally accessible) rather than necessarily paid out to everyone and then clawed back, which for some is what universal implies. The use of “livable” signals an income that enables people to live with dignity, not just stay alive.
- Hold an event/vigil on March 24-26 to call for a Guaranteed Livable Income. On these days of action, engage municipal, provincial/territorial, and federal politicians by holding a vigil outside their offices or inviting them to a local event. (Read invitation.) Find more resources in GLI OneDrive.
- Contact your Member of Parliament and urge them to support Bill C-223 to establish the first, if passed, national framework for an unconditional Guaranteed Livable Basic Income for all persons over 17 across Canada. You can write your own e-mail or use UBI Works’ online contact your MP template. An identical Bill S-233 is in the Senate as well. Please cc .
- Call or write to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland, and ask them to
- seize this moment to roll out a guaranteed livable income program in collaboration with the provinces, territories, and Indigenous leadership
- develop and implement a program that provides an adequate living level for everyone and addresses the persistent inequities that exist within the present wage and social benefit structures of our country
- address systemic barriers experienced by Indigenous peoples in accessing relief programs (for example, those related to COVID-19)
- build a program that is universally accessible, preserves human dignity rather than creates stigma, removes discriminatory barriers, does not penalize people for the work that they do, is available with a minimum of bureaucracy, and exists alongside other social supports, including health care, pharmacare, pension, and education supports.
You can write your own letter or personalize the e-mail template below. Justin Trudeau’s e-mail is email@example.com and Chrystia Freeland’s e-mail is Chrystia.Freeland@parl.gc.ca. Please cc firstname.lastname@example.org and your own member of Parliament. You can find your MP's contact information by entering your postal code on the Parliament of Canada website. Multiply your efforts by sharing with 10 friends and encourage them to write their own.
- Show your support through "We support Guaranteed Livable Income" lawn signs and bumper stickers. E-mail for more information.
- Engage your community of faith using special GLI worship resources on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty worship page (GLI Sunday Guide, sample service, theological rationale, prayers, and more). These were created for GLI Sunday, October 17, 2021, and can easily be adapted for your own services on whichever date you like.
- Join the United Church e-mail network, Guaranteed Livable Income, to receive updates and opportunities to connect with others.
- Share this Take Action on your social media networks. Use the hashtags #UCCan, #UCCanlivableincome, #poverty, #basicincome, #basicincomenow.
- Learn more by engaging with
- United Church policies available on United Church Commons (in particular, "Adequate Guaranteed Annual Income," 1972 and "Guaranteed Annual Income," 1986)
- this Municipal Campaign Strategy (GLI Network)
- this Backgrounder on the Nuts and Bolts of a Guaranteed Livable Income
- this Young Adults Speak about Guaranteed Livable Income video
- Karlene Cameron's blog, The Guaranteed Livable Income Is Always a Good Idea, and Lynda Trono's blog, A Guaranteed Livable Income Would Be Better
- this FAQ from Basic Income Canada
- this simple introductory video Basic Income for Canada
- a public letter on guaranteed basic income by Anglican and Evangelical Lutheran bishops from May 2020
- an April 2020 open letter signed by 50 senators calling for a minimum basic income [PDF on sencanada.ca]
The United Church of Canada affirms that a guaranteed annual income is the most efficient way of ensuring that all Canadians will have a secure economic floor to stand on (see the 1972 and 1986 policies available on United Church Commons).
Since 1972, The United Church of Canada has advocated a policy of guaranteed annual income that is more equitable and less expensive and complicated to administer than the numerous government support programs presently available. Since then, national and international studies and programs have shown that a universal basic income is both affordable and had beneficial effects in the areas of health, justice, education, and social welfare.
Indigenous members of the United Church have described how structural inequities in Canadian society continue to be reinforced in this time of pandemic. They have reported barriers to accessing relief programs designed to help Canadians through the pandemic crisis. Accordingly, a guaranteed livable income program should be designed to ensure that both the application and payment processes facilitate participation by all Indigenous peoples, whether they live in urban centres or remote communities. The government should build a program that is universally accessible, preserves human dignity rather than creates stigma, removes discriminatory barriers, does not penalize people for the work that they do, and is available with a minimum of bureaucracy, and exists alongside other social supports, including health care, pharmacare, pension, and education supports.
Low-income racialized communities have been hit hardest by COVID-19 and its economic impact. A guaranteed livable income would assist all, but especially those in our society who are economically disadvantaged by manifestations of systemic racism.
Please note that the terms “universal basic income” (UBI) and guaranteed livable income used here do not endorse any particular design. The intent of the Moderator's letter and this Take Action is to raise up principles on which a program for basic income would be designed and implemented.
What Is Basic Income?
A guaranteed livable income (GLI) is a payment to individuals or families by government that covers the cost of basic necessities (food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and community participation) and is not conditional on meeting employment criteria in order to qualify for the benefit. It ensures everyone an income adequate for meeting basic needs, allowing all people to live with dignity regardless of work status. Such a program would be part of the national fabric of services that preserve and protect Canadians; or, as Jesus put it, “to love our neighbours as ourselves.”
Rather than have a rules-based, bureaucratically driven application process (during which applications must prove they are "really poor" before being approved), all Canadian citizens are ensured an automatic top-up when their income collapses for whatever reason. The incomes would be unconditional, automatic, non-withdrawable, individual, and a right of every legal resident.
A guaranteed livable income is an effective way to support the reduction and elimination of poverty and insecurity; the narrowing of extreme income and wealth inequalities; shared citizenship; and improved democratic and economic functioning.
- Guaranteed Livable Income Vigil April 8 (United Church and Basic Income Hamilton vigil)
- Advancing a Livable Income: Overcoming Ontario's Poverty Pandemic, (ISARC Religious Leaders Forum, Nov. 25, 2020)
- Universal basic income could change more than how we work (Broadview article by Jonas Cornelsen)
- Lift the Floor: Would a universal basic income guarantee a good life for all Canadians? (a webinar by Broadbent Institute, May 14, 2020)
- Massey Dialogues: Hugh Segal on Judgement-free Money Efficiently Distributed: Time for Basic Income? (April 2, 2020)
- Guaranteed Livable Income, Senator Kim Pate (February 25, 2020)
- Basic Income: Rethinking Social Policy (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2016)
- The Intended and Unexpected Benefits of Guaranteed Basic Income (Citizens for Public Justice, June 21, 2019)
- Basic Income Canada
- Ending Poverty (learn more about the United Church’s anti-poverty justice work)
- Invitation for Action: Mar. 24-26, 2023 (33.13 KB) (PDF)
- GLI Municipal Campaign Strategy (61.77 KB) (PDF)
- GLI E-mail Template (28.95 KB) (Word)
- GLI Worship Resources (72.2 KB) (Word)
- Backgrounder on the Nuts and Bolts of a Guaranteed Livable Income (249.4 KB) (PDF)
- Moderator letter to elected officials re universal basic income May 2020 (475.96 KB) (PDF)